“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God. All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” 1 Corinthians 6:9–12
There is a widespread problem in our churches. It is a serious problem that most are aware of but few want to acknowledge. It is not the only sin problem among us, but it is a pervasive and severe one. Let us break the strange silence: Alcohol abuse is one of the most minimized but prevalent sins within conservative Reformed churches such as ours.
Here are some common trends: The high school upperclassman drinks undercover and underage in order to fit in with the “lit” crowd. The abstaining student who swore before graduation, “I will never participate in that,” finds the extra freedom after high school irresistible. The young adult anticipates his twenty-first birthday as the designated day (with a designated driver, of course) to guzzle booze. Parents are oblivious (sometimes intentionally so), or they shrug their shoulders in indifference saying, “We turned out alright.” The “buzz” becomes the norm but is denied as drunkenness. Young and old know not how to have fun or relax without liquor flowing. Regular is the church-going on Sunday, but just as regular is the party beforehand. The problem is euphemized as a bad habit that we can easily stop whenever we want. We laugh along with the jokes and sing along with the songs that make light of and even glorify a drinking problem. The Reformed man boasts of his doctrine but with the same mouth drinks until he forgets it all. The devil behind the idol consumes the consumer from the inside out, and along with his spiritual destruction often comes that of his own family.
Three clear sins should sober us. First, young men and women under the age of twenty-one break the fifth commandment by rebelling against the law of the land. Second, there is extreme overindulgence. After a few drinks in one sitting, many cross the line into drunkenness far sooner than they imagine. Contrary to popular opinion, they are drunk far before they lose the ability to walk straight. Third, there is an addiction problem, otherwise known as an idolatry problem. Even if we do not get drunk often, we feel the need for a drink after a stressful day. The dependence and desire that ought to be toward God our souls and bodies feel toward a different god.
Many readers may stubbornly deny that the above is an accurate description of certain trends among us. I boldly insist that it is; denial is often due to the blinding power of sin or our proud naiveté.
Alcohol abuse is flagrant sin. It is true that all sin is serious and all sin deserves eternity in hell. But some sins are worse than others, and I daresay that drunkenness is one of those. It is egregious. What! You didn’t know that? Then you did not read carefully the verse prefacing this article. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Listed along with homosexual sin (“effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind”) is drunkenness. If you are one who unremorsefully continues in drunkenness, you must know that while you may be known as some highly reputable “PR,” you are not going to heaven.
Now, do not misunderstand; someone who used to be an alcohol abuser but has repented (meaning that there is a change of mind leading to a change of life regarding this sin) can be certain of salvation because of Jesus Christ. “And such were [emphasis added] some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). Drunkenness is not the unpardonable sin. However, willful and continuing impenitence is. He who persists unconverted in his drunkenness while imagining that he is in covenant, forgiven, and on the way to heaven will find out differently very soon.
It is not just hell that should be of concern to us. It’s the spiritual health of Christ’s church. We need men—and real men at that—who prove themselves so, not by being able to drink lots of beer but by practicing lots of self-control. “Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink” (IsA. 5:22)! We need men qualified to be officebearers and therefore “not given to wine” (1 Tim. 3:3). Just as much, we need godly women who are sober (Titus 2:4) and “faithful in all things” (1 Tim. 3:11). We need men and women who together repent of their sin before the cross and hold each other accountable to fight against sin.
Of all the truths of the sufferings of Jesus Christ there is none so dear as the truth that He suffered voluntarily. He was not dragged to the cross against His will.
He did not endure His suffering as a passive victim, reluctantly, with cold resignation. But He went to the cross and endured His suffering willingly, zealously, and voluntarily.